Height: 26.200 cm
Asia OA 1936.11-18.196
Bronze incense burner
Koryo dynasty (AD 918-1392)
Used for Buddhist rituals and ceremonies
This incense burner would have been part of a larger set for ritual use on an altar in a Buddhist temple. Buddhism was the official religion of the Koryo dynasty (AD 918-1392) with a strong influence in almost every area of society. Many aristocrats would send their second-born sons to become Buddhist monks, who were generally revered.
The burner has a decorative pattern and characters in the Siddham script (an Indian form of Sanskrit, used to write invocations) inlaid in silver. The characters can be read anti-clockwise to make a mystic formula whose sounds, Om ram svāhā give the seed-syllable (bija-mantra) ram.
The burner is typical of the accomplished metalwork of the Koryo period. Incense burners were also made in celadon; the inlaid silver decoration on this recalls the sanggam technique used on celadon ware.
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)